All posts by scottpeavey

About scottpeavey

I am a US and World History teacher at Gardner Edgerton High School in Gardner, KS.

The George Washington Teacher Institute- A Great Opportunity for Teachers!

The following is a guest post from Doing Social Studies contributor Joe Zlatnik, an 8th grade Social Studies teacher at Basehor-Linwood Middle School


Professional development, for most of us, occurs in our own building and districts, and, in my experience, is not usually planned with social studies teachers in mind. The professional development I have been involved with is usually very general and is rarely specific to what I teach. While this is unfortunate, the burden on school administrators planning professional development opportunities is understandable. STEM subjects and reading are the major priorities of the state of Kansas, and school districts follow suit. Considering the shrinking budgets across the state, there is less and less available for content-specific professional development, especially for Social Studies teachers.

While this is certainly a disappointing reality, there are incredible opportunities available for those who seek them out. Conferences, such as KCSS and NCSS, are great opportunities to network and learn from some of the best Social Studies teachers from around the state and country. There are also a number of opportunities available during the summer for teachers who seek to grow as a professional.

Last month, I had the incredible opportunity to take part in the George Washington Teacher Institute at the our first President’s beloved estate, Mt. Vernon. This five-day, four-night residential professional development program focused on the leadership and legacy of George Washington, and the lessons that we can derive from him and his experiences. Dr. Denver Brunsman of George Washington University led the institute. We also had opportunities to collaborate with Mt. Vernon’s historians, curators, educational experts, and the fellow teachers taking part in the institute.

Continue reading The George Washington Teacher Institute- A Great Opportunity for Teachers!

Teaching the Pledge: A Strategy for Using the Pledge of Allegiance to Promote Civic Discussion

The Fourth of July has always been a favorite holiday of mine. The fireworks, the food, the abundance of red, white and blue, the obligatory History Channel marathon of something about the American Revolution; it all is precisely in this history teaching, America loving, BBQ enthusiast’s wheelhouse. The Fourth is the day where nearly all of our nation’s traditions and rituals are put on full display, and I hope that our students (and really all Americans) recognize the significance of this nation and the great responsibility placed in all citizens by the Founders.

During the annual fireworks display I always find myself taking a moment and reflecting with pride the origins of our nation and the principles in which we were founded. This opportunity to reflect is really the purpose of our national traditions, but too often we get so caught up in the hectic nature of 21st century life that the meaning gets lost. In terms of school, my mind immediately goes to the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance by students of all ages. Those schools where this is a daily or weekly requirement display an admirable dedication to honoring America, but I hope the respective social studies teachers in those buildings take the time to remind their students of the magnitude of those words. The Pledge of Allegiance is a powerful act that strikes at the heart of what it means to be a voluntary, active member of our republic. However, without reflecting upon its meaning it can become an empty gesture that is done without meaning or significance. In my class I took a portion of a 45-minute class period to discuss with my kids the significance of the Pledge and what exactly they were doing as they have been reciting it for years.

Continue reading Teaching the Pledge: A Strategy for Using the Pledge of Allegiance to Promote Civic Discussion

Informed Citizenship: Analyzing Bias in Current Events

The following is a guest post from Basehor-Linwood Middle School teacher Joe Zlatnik.  Joe teaches 8th grade social studies at BLMS.

news1The concept of citizenship can be found throughout various social studies curricula. KSDE social studies standards are designed to “prepare students to be informed, thoughtful, engaged citizens…” and the National Council for the Social Studies C3 curriculum seeks to offer opportunities “for students to develop as thoughtful, engaged citizens.”

However, the steps to becoming a citizen are not clearly outlined. It is as if you become a citizen as a byproduct of going through these prescribed curriculums. I argue that one will not simply become an engaged citizen by completing a curriculum, but that students also need to have a way to decipher the ever-changing world we live in.

Being an engaged citizen today is, perhaps, more difficult now than it has ever been. The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite has given way to Fox News and MSNBC. We now live in a world with a 24-hour news cycle, multiple cable news channels, and a bias that is inherent in almost all the information that we receive.

As reporting has been replaced by editorializing, we find ourselves struggling to formulate our own opinions due to being overwhelmed by talking heads from across the political spectrum telling us what we should think. Developing a sense of citizenship amongst students, while daunting, is now more important than ever.

Continue reading Informed Citizenship: Analyzing Bias in Current Events

If These Walls Could Talk: Maximize Your Classroom’s Instructional Potential! (Part 1)

On Friday, November 13 my good friend Joe Zlatnik of Basehor-Linwood Middle School and I had the honor of presenting at the NCSS national conference in New Orleans.  In addition to taking every possible opportunity to eat Cajun food, we spoke with a group of about 40 teachers from across the country about strategies we have used to utilize our physical classroom wall space for instructional purposes

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I am a firm believer in trying to give conference attendees as many practical ideas as possible during a session and this year we offered up four activities I have attempted at both Tonganoxie and Gardner Edgerton high schools.  What follows is Part One of this presentation, with parts two through four soon to come.

Strategy  I: If These Walls Could Talk: The Aurasma Concept Review

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(Please note that I am in no way connected with the Aurasma app, it is simply something that was shown to me by a media specialist that I thought was cool!)

A common problem that all teachers face is the reality that there are many students who need assistance and only one teacher to go around.  Worse yet, how often do students need a refresher on a topic they are studying without anyone to ask other than the almighty Google?  The Aurasma app provides an innovative way for kids with smartphones to receive that refresher from the teacher him or herself in the comfort of their own home.

Continue reading If These Walls Could Talk: Maximize Your Classroom’s Instructional Potential! (Part 1)

“Coach” should not be an insult. Take pride in all aspects of being an educator

coach shortQ:  What is the most common first name of social studies teachers throughout Kansas?
A:  Coach

We all know the old cliche that social studies is the content discipline for those educators who don’t want to teach PE but also don’t want to teach a “real” subject like science or math.  We can imagine their idea of a perfect lesson: assigning students text to read out of the book, followed by a worksheet of basic, low-level questions, and ending with a full-length movie while they plan their next practice. We expect them to play favorites with their specific athletes and put all of their intellectual time and effort into their respective sport.

I’m not convinced the cliche is entirely accurate.

Perhaps I was fortunate during my time at the University of Kansas where my core group of prospective social studies teachers took a relatively strong interest in the content area we were studying.  Some of us were coaches, some of us were not.  Yet nearly all of us were able to engage in thoughtful debate covering a wide range of serious, intellectually stimulating topics.  So I did not really face the coaching cliché until two summers ago. Continue reading “Coach” should not be an insult. Take pride in all aspects of being an educator